The next version of Microsoft’s browser will include technologies to let users block websites and online advertisers from collecting and retaining their information.
Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), which began beta testing in mid-September, will add new user privacy features, including support for so-called “do-not-track” lists aimed at giving users more control over what data is collected by third-parties.
The anti-tracking capabilities will become available when IE9 reaches the “release candidate” or RC stage – the final phase of testing before a Microsoft product is released, according to a post on the IEBlog by Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president for Internet Explorer, on Tuesday.
“With the release candidate, IE9 will offer consumers a new opt-in mechanism [called] ‘Tracking Protection’ to identify and block many forms of undesired tracking, [and] ‘Tracking Protection Lists’ [that] will enable consumers to control what third-party site content can track them when they’re online,” Hachamovitch added.
Microsoft’s announcement appears to at least partially satisfy recommendations that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently published regarding protecting users’ privacy online.
“We want to develop (as the recent FTC report put it) ‘more effective technologies for consumer control’ and make progress on the report’s recommendation of ‘a browser-based mechanism through which consumers could make persistent choices’ regarding tracking,” Hachamovitch said.
The move comes at a time when many Web marketers, publishers, and service providers find themselves under increasing scrutiny by the FTC and other agencies over tracking users’ habits and using that information to better target online advertising. The report recognizes the push and pull nature of the debate between privacy advocates and parties interested in marketing on the Web.
Released last week, the FTC report calls for “do-not-track” lists for users who want to opt out of being tracked online with cookies and other technologies – although it doesn’t advocate that the government necessarily oversee the lists or police compliance at this point.
Additionally, despite the recent discussions, there is no specific proposed legislation on the docket during this congressional session.
“We believe that the combination of consumer opt-in, an open platform for publishing of Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs), and the underlying technology mechanism for Tracking Protection offer new options and a good balance between empowering consumers and online industry needs,” Hachamovitch said.
A Microsoft spokesperson declined to say when IE9 is slated for delivery, although many observers say it’s generally expected in the first half of next year.
“Microsoft is deliberate in our approach to releasing new products, and we feel a strong obligation to our customers to do so in a responsible manner that ensures they are getting the safest, most reliable product possible,” the spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.
The company claims that IE9 was downloaded 10 million times in just the first couple of weeks of the beta test.
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